As of businesses in Queensland are no longer allowed to supply:
Straws & Stirrers
Bowls & Plates
Takeaway Food Containers & Cups
Frequently Asked Questions
On 10 March 2021, the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Plastic Items) Amendment Act 2021 was passed by the Queensland Parliament.
The Department of Environment and Science is responsible for implementing the legislation, and has provided comprehensive information for businesses, suppliers, not-for-profit organisations, and consumers. Extensive consultation with industry, the disability sector and the public were performed to assess impacts and cater for particular needs.
The following terms are defined in the legislation:
- plastic item means "an item made, in whole or part, of plastic (whether or not the plastic is compostable)".
- single-use plastic item means "a plastic item, other than a plastic item that is compostable, designed to be used only once".
- compostable, for a plastic item, means "the plastic item is compostable under AS 4736 or AS 5810".
- AS 4736 means "the Australian Standard for biodegradable plastics suitable for composting and other microbial treatment, as in force from time to time under that designation (regardless of the edition or year of publication of the standard)".
- This standard is commonly referred to as Commercially Compostable, meaning items will only biodegrade in specific conditions provided by a commercial composting facility. It indicates that these items do NOT biodegrade in the environment, waterways, or home composting bins in a reasonable time period.
- AS 5810 means "the Australian Standard for biodegradable plastics suitable for home composting, as in force from time to time under that designation (regardless of the edition or year of publication of the standard)".
- This standard is commonly referred to as Home Compostable, meaning items will biodegrade in most home composting bins.
- A banned single-use plastic item is a single-use plastic item that—
- a plate; or
- a bowl; or
- an item of cutlery; or
- a straw; or
- a stirrer; or
- a takeaway food container made, in whole or part, of expanded polystyrene (EPS); or
- a cup made, in whole or part, of expanded polystyrene (EPS); or
- is prescribed by regulation to be a banned single-use plastic item.
- The following is not a banned single-use plastic item—
- a single-use plastic item that is an integral part of a shelf-ready product;
- a single-use plastic item that is prescribed by regulation not to be a banned single-use plastic item.
- shelf-ready product means food or a beverage that is pre-packed as a single serve and ready for—
- immediate consumption; or
- consumption after cooling or heating the food or beverage.
- means utensils for eating food; and
- includes chopsticks, splayds and sporks.
- exempt business or undertaking means—
- a healthcare business or undertaking; or
- a school; or
- a business or undertaking, prescribed by regulation for this definition, that involves the sale or supply of banned single-use plastic items for use by persons with a disability or healthcare needs.
- healthcare business or undertaking means any of the following businesses or undertakings (however called)—
- a clinic or facility that provides care to persons with a disability or healthcare needs;
- a dental clinic;
- a hospital;
- a medical clinic;
- a medical supply business or undertaking;
- a pharmacy;
- a business or undertaking that is substantially similar to a business or undertaking mentioned in any of the above paragraph.
The same rules apply to items supplied to customers, regardless of whether they are supplied in packets or loose, or whether they are free or sold.
Single-use plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers
- The ban applies to:
- single-use plastic straws, stirrers, swizzle sticks, forks, spoons, knives, sporks, splayds, chopsticks and food picks.
- The ban does not apply to:
- serving utensils (e.g. tongs, serving spoons), or
- items included in shelf-ready pre-packaged food and beverage items (e.g. a straw attached to a juice box).
Single-use plastic bowls & plates
- The ban applies to:
- unenclosed single-use plastic bowls or plates, including those made from expanded polystyrene.
- The ban does not apply to:
- bowls or plates in shelf-ready pre-packaged food and beverage items (e.g. bowls in frozen meals),
- servingware (e.g. platters, serving bowls),
- other takeaway containers (e.g. sushi containers, triangle sandwich containers), or
- bowls and containers with lids (noting that just placing a lid on a bowl without need for this is not in the spirit of the legislation).
Expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers & cups
- The ban applies to:
- single-use takeaway food containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene (EPS).
- The ban does not apply to:
- EPS trays (like those used for raw meat, fruit or vegetables),
- EPS business-to-business transport containers,
- EPS packaging like that in whitegoods,
- EPS in shelf-ready pre-packaged goods, or
- other containers not made from EPS.
Note: other single-use plastic items may be added to the ban in future, though extensive consultation and research will be conducted to ensure this:
- will have a real and positive impact on the environment,
- that food safety needs are carefully managed, and
- that negative impacts to business and consumers are minimised.
Important points to note:
- Claims of “biodegradable”, “degradable”, “environmentally-friendly” and “plastic-free” do not guarantee that they meet Australian composting standards, and some may cause more environmental harm if customers do not dispose of them correctly.
- Single-use alternatives which contain compostable plastics (such as PLA or PHA) must meet Australian Standards. These plastics require specific conditions to break down and can still cause harm if littered. Businesses considering these items should check whether they comply with:
- AS 5810-2010 suitable for home composting, or
- AS 4736-2006 only suitable for industrial composting.
- Read more about these certifications>
- You will need to provide clear and legible information about these certifications (e.g. labelling, invoice, order records).
- General claims and international certifications (e.g. TUV, OK Compost) will not be accepted.
The National Retail Association recommends avoiding compostable plastics if there are other alternatives available. Compostable plastics may be a viable alternative for other items which need to be waterproof, and where appropriate commercial composting collection services (i.e. FOGO bins) exist.
We note that bans on straws, cutlery and stirrers in other jurisdictions do not allow compostable plastics.
The ban applies to all businesses (e.g. retailers, food outlets, suppliers, manufacturers, online stores, markets), charities and not-for-profit organisations, unless they are an exempt organisation*.
Only the following are exempt organisations and can continue to supply banned items after the ban begins:
- clinics or facilities that provide care to persons with a disability or healthcare needs;
- dental clinics;
- medical clinics;
- aged care facilities;
- medical suppliers; and
- manufacturers/ distributors which supply to these organisations.
This exemption is designed to ensure that Queenslanders with disability or healthcare needs can continue to access banned items.
Suppliers, distributors and wholesalers
The ban and all 5 offences apply to suppliers, distributors and wholesalers of packaging items. Please be aware that penalties apply for supplying banned items, but also for providing false or misleading information about items.
If a retailer purchases from a supplier based on reasonable evidence that they thought the items were compliant, the supplier will be investigated. We recommend that all businesses keep a record of information supplied.
Suppliers may only supply banned items to an organisation if they have a reasonable belief that organisation is exempt.
Distribution centres supplying to customers outside Queensland are not included in the ban, though businesses should check for similar bans in other jurisdictions.
National suppliers can supply to clients outside of Queensland, but again please check local rules.
Single-use plastic bans around Australia
Most states and territories in Australia are implementing bans on single-use plastic items, though the rules of each ban vary per jurisdiction. Check the external links below for more information:
Businesses can also call the National Retail Association hotline or email email@example.com for information on other bans.
From 1 September 2021, a business or not-for-profit organisation may face a maximum fine of 50 penalty units for each of the following if they:
- supply a banned single-use plastic item; or
- provide false or misleading information to another person about a banned plastic item; or
- provide false or misleading information to another person about whether or not a plastic item is compostable; or
- do not provide clear and legible written information about whether a plastic item is compostable; or
- do not comply with a notice under the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Plastic Items) Amendment Act 2021.
Using an education-first approach, the Queensland Government, through the National Retail Association and Boomerang Alliance, will work with businesses and not-for-profit organisations to ensure they understand the ban and what they must do to comply, as well as options to manage excess stock.
Any person can report a suspected breach via the online reporting form or the hotline (1800 844 946). Each report will be investigated.
Random spot checks will also be undertaken.
Any organisation that is unsure if they are compliant, or facing challenges during their transition, should contact the National Retail Association via the hotline or firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
The single-use plastic items banned in Queensland include single-use plastic plates and bowls; which by the definition – are items designed to be used only once, and are made, in whole or part, of plastic. Therefore, by definition, the paper plates and bowls with a plastic lining or coating are included in the ban.
However, the Queensland Government considers that ensuring the availability of fit-for-purpose alternatives is an important requirement in implementing and justifying regulatory intervention.
The Department of Environment and Science (the Department) has been advised that there are difficulties with sourcing alternative products as there are not currently replacement products available. We understand that paper products which are printed or coloured currently need a thin coating or lining of plastic to meet food safety standards and protect food from ink migration.
We understand that viable alternatives, including compostable plastic alternatives, are lacking not only in Queensland, but internationally.
The department has been further advised that alternative products are being explored and tested, but are some years away from market, assuming they pass necessary safety tests.
The Department is therefore satisfied that an alternative product is not currently available to replace printed or coloured paper plates and bowls without posing significant impact on public choice, business viability and human and food safety.
As the availability of a suitable alternative is one of the legislative criteria for deciding to ban an item, the Department will not pursue compliance on these items at this time.
A review and assessment of alternatives will be undertaken by 1 September 2022. Industry will be expected to provide evidence-based information on the progress and availability of alternatives either via the National Retail Association or as an individual submission. Further research and input from the community and academic sources will also be considered. Should alternatives be found to be sufficiently available, the department will reconsider its approach and provide guidance to industry with appropriate timing.